The Women in Fire Safety Awards: Celebrating Women’s Impact

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A Conversation with Chloe Vickery, Co-Founder of the Women in Fire Safety Awards

As the Women in Fire Safety Awards swiftly approach, anticipation is building.

This significant event honours the exemplary contributions of women in the fire safety community, providing a platform to redress historical gender imbalances within the industry.

Co-founders Chloe Vickery and Kate Blake, women of merit who have navigated dynamic careers in the field, are dedicated to fostering a more progressive sector, championing women’s accomplishments, and inspiring a new generation to consider fire safety as an exciting career opportunity.

Ahead of the ceremony on 28th September 2023, Iain Hoey caught up with Chloe to delve into the origins, significance, and evolution of the awards.

What inspired you both to establish the Women in Fire Safety Awards and how has the reception been since inception?

We’re currently celebrating our third year of the Women in Fire Safety Awards.

Having dedicated 16 years of my life to this industry, starting when I was just 16, I’ve witnessed firsthand the challenges and opportunities that women face here.

Kate and I often discussed the lack of platforms that specifically recognise and champion the role of women in our field.

One day, inspired by a collective passion and a bit of spontaneity, I proposed the idea of establishing these awards to Kate.

The aim was first to encourage more women to consider a career in fire safety by showcasing the exemplary work of their peers, and secondly, to provide much-deserved recognition to the remarkable women already breaking barriers in our community.

The creation of the awards was not influenced by external events like COVID – it came from a simple and genuine desire to give back to an industry that has enriched my life in countless ways over the past 16-17 years.

An important, yet sometimes overlooked, aspect of our mission was to promote unity among women in our sector.

There are moments, as is the case in many industries where minorities exist, when competition can overshadow collaboration, leading to an underlying tension.

We wanted to address this by emphasising the importance of supporting one another, championing successes, and working together to build an even more inclusive and thriving community.

Why do you think it is essential to have an award ceremony specifically for women in the fire safety industry?

Women are significantly underrepresented in the fire safety industry.

For instance, membership percentages for women in fire industry institutes are typically below 10%.

It’s commonplace for women to attend meetings and be the only female representative on dozens or even hundreds of occasions.

This isn’t just about numbers within the industry.

As a fire risk assessor, I’ve encountered numerous instances where clients or site workers expected a man, creating an implicit need for me to prove my competence.

This means, even if I’m more skilled than a male counterpart, I may spend three times as long just to establish my credibility.

The goal of our awards isn’t merely to raise awareness within the industry or to inspire prospective female professionals, but also to signal to the broader community that competent women actively excel in these roles.

How have the entries for this year’s awards reflected the growing impact of women in the industry?

From our inaugural awards ceremony, the response has been remarkable. Starting out, we were uncertain about the reception, thinking, “Let’s see how it goes.”

At that first event, we hosted around 70 attendees in a modest venue and live-streamed the proceedings.

Following that, the next ceremony saw a jump from 70 to roughly 350 participants.

This swift growth underscores the evident need and demand for such recognition in the industry.

When an initiative like this gains visibility, people resonate and engage with it eagerly.

This year, we’ve only seen the enthusiasm and participation expand further.

Are there any new award categories or major changes introduced to the awards this year? If so, what was the reason behind these changes?

While many award categories remain consistent, we’ve made some adjustments.

Our goal is to ensure the awards align with the industry’s needs.

We’re responsive to feedback and, if a category doesn’t fit right, we modify it. So, there’s potential for more changes next year.

What advice would you give to women who might be interested in entering next year’s awards?

Kate and I consistently emphasise one piece of advice: think outside the box regarding award categories.

While many gravitate towards “Woman of the Year”, consider other categories that might be more tailored to your specific role.

This year, the three most sought-after categories were “Woman of the Year”, “Rising Star”, and “Administrator of the Rising Star Award”.

Widening the scope your nominations can be beneficial.

Moreover, when nominating, ensure you provide comprehensive information.

Judges base their decisions on the details in the nomination form to ensure fairness.

Simply stating “Jane is great” isn’t enough; elaborate to strengthen the nomination.

Could you shed light on the process of shortlisting nominees for the awards? How do you ensure it’s fair and represents the diversity of talent in the industry?

Our approach to judging the awards is rooted in equal opportunity.

Nominees are scored individually, and the scores are aggregated.

The nominee with the highest cumulative score is the winner.

Unlike some award processes where there’s a discussion about shortlisted candidates, our method is purely quantitative.

Judges are given score sheets to evaluate the shortlisted nominees, and the highest scorer prevails.

Kate and I initially weren’t event or award experts and a supporter once asked about ensuring fairness in our judgment process.

They suggested a method they have seen work well in other awards.

We took this advice to heart and implemented it.

This process ensures different perspectives are considered, allowing for a more comprehensive and equitable assessment.

What are you most looking forward to at this year’s ceremony? Are there any highlights we should look out for?

We pride ourselves on authenticity, setting our ceremony apart.

Unlike other award events, we prioritise promoting talent within the fire safety industry.

For instance, our performers, including the singers, are from the sector.

We’re dedicated to showcasing homegrown talent over externally sourced entertainers.

It’s something we’re deeply passionate about.

How do you hope the Women in Fire Safety Awards will continue to influence and shape the future of the fire safety industry?

The Women in Fire Safety Awards have gained significant traction in the UK, and there’s international interest, like from the US.

Our vision extends beyond the UK; we aim to collaborate globally.

Through platforms like LinkedIn, we’re exploring seminars in Europe.

Ultimately, our goal is to continuously promote fire safety, connecting women worldwide to share knowledge and collaborate.

The ceremony will be held on 28th September 2023 at the Leonardo Royal Hotel, London E1 8GP.

Read the full shortlist of nominees here.

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